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Eminem's Influence on Detroit

Updated on April 9, 2015

Eminem More Than Just a Rapper

At twelve years of age, Marshall Mathers III, known later as Eminem or Slim Shady, moved with his mother to Warren, a suburb that borders Detroit along Eight Mile Rd. The kid from the trailer park eventually became one of the biggest cultural icons this city has ever known.

His rise to fame is half-detailed in the semi-fictional film, 8 Mile. His road to rapping stardom wound through some tough neighborhoods and was blocked by one significant obstacle - breaking into the mostly black rap scene as a white kid from the suburbs.

The film explores Eminem's background and shows what the freestyle rap battles he engaged in were all about. It's a great story to complement Eminems' real life and his journey from high school dropout to poetic musician. The words from the songs he wrote, highlighted in the Eight Mile film, are more than just lyrics to Detroiters; they are the hopes and dreams realized of a people living in a hardscrabble city, many whom seek a better life, too.

Eminem's Songs Unite a City

A person needs to live in or near Detroit to understand the city's demographics. This is especially true where Eight Mile Rd. is concerned. It's known as the dividing line between white and black, between safety and crime, between the haves and the have-not's.

Eight Mile Rd. stretches from the East Side of Detroit to the West Side. The East Side, where Eminem grew up in bordering Warren, is a tough collection of neighborhoods. Detroit's reputation as a dangerous city is a reasonable label; yet, and the 8 mile movie portrays this well, the city is still filled with people who aren't intolerant toward those attempting to integrate. Eminem took a few beatings and insults before he gained acceptance with the city's mostly black East Side residents, but his struggle to make his way in a world closed off to outsiders gained him instant credibility in the rap music world.

There's a word some Detroiters use for white people spotted in the rougher neighborhoods: tourists. Once the other rappers and fans realized the kid wasn't going to back down and run back to the suburbs, they started listening to what he was saying in his songs. He was obviously no tourist, and his own message of overcoming odds to make a mark in the world resounded loudly over the city and eventually, the entire world.

Warning: Unedited Video. Some Explicit Lyrics.

Eminem Still Overcoming the Odds

In 2005, Eminem entered a rehab facility for addiction treatment for a serious pill habit. At a time when Americans were increasingly becoming addicted to pain killers and sleep aids, this news again displayed the very human side of the artist. For several years, Eminem's star faded as other artists took his place on the Billboard charts. Many wondered if he'd ever release a new album.

Then, in 2009, he did. His Relapse album didn't wow people the way some of his previous rap albums had, but it did signify his return. And in 2010, he released Recovery, an album with songs so deep in meaning and attitude that many of Eminem's fans consider it his best work, ever.

His title, I'm Not Afraid, brought a message to addicts that there was a way out. Considering Detroit has a crippling drug problem on its streets, the Eminem that rose to the top in the rap world was back and with a new message of hope for Detroiters.

His lyrics on Recovery were gushed about by critics as lyrical poetry. Poets and authors came out to support Eminem's craft and message. His music is generally considered to contain a positive message for youths, a provocative new opinion applied to rap music considering the negative press previously applied to much of this music genre.

Eminem's Music Changed the Way Detroiter's See Black and White

If the past is any indication, Eminem's music will remain relevant for a long, long time. He's sure to come out with new stuff, whether it be a Chrysler commercial or an album, and it's always relevant to Detroiters.

His song, Beautiful, came from the Relapse album in 2009. The video for the song was shot in Detroit. The pride coming through the music and video was something Detroiters have always felt about their city. It's a town depicted in the worst light, perhaps that has something to do with it, but the people who live there will defend it vigorously; just like what Eminem was doing in his Beautiful video.

Eminem's music reaches many interested ears all over the world, but to the people of Detroit, well, they know what he's talking about. They know what he had to go through to get where he is today. They have as much hope for him as they have for their city.

Eminem--that white kid from the trailer park across Eight Mile--transcended race, and caused blacks and whites in Detroit to take a closer, more reflective look at one another. Because the unheard, underlying message from this epic rap star is one of brotherhood; it is a message that's telling us to forget about outside appearances. He's telling Detroit and the world that that stuff don't mean sh*t.

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    • profile image

      Jen 

      5 years ago

      So will I, hope all is well

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      5 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Good to hear Jason! I'll expect an autographed copy for my concern. Actually two copies, one for Maria also:)

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 

      5 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Sounds cool, Jason. Glad all is well and look forward to hearing more...

    • Jason Marovich profile imageAUTHOR

      Jason F Marovich 

      5 years ago from Detroit

      Hey, marcoujor and Sunshine625! I'm still around. Currently writing a novel about my experiences in Detroit, and you better believe that Em will be mentioned. Thanks for seeking me out - I'll try to get back soon!

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      5 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Good idea Mar! We could always track Jason down through Em's hub! Come out, come out wherever you are JM.

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 

      5 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      Big Momma Sunshine is lookin for your booty, Jason... please show your face. She's askin for back-up!

    • Jason Marovich profile imageAUTHOR

      Jason F Marovich 

      6 years ago from Detroit

      I like the comparison. When both artists had their message heard round the world people responded. Yes, people in Detroit pay homage to Eminem, same as people in the Caribbean pay homage to Bob Marley. But their messages couldn't be contained for long. Thanks for reading and commenting, rasta1.

    • rasta1 profile image

      Marvin Parke 

      6 years ago from Jamaica

      It's like when Bob Marley sings his song. The people in the Jamaica ghettos feel the music more because they know He is singing about them.

    • Jason Marovich profile imageAUTHOR

      Jason F Marovich 

      6 years ago from Detroit

      @tillsontitan - It must have been hard for Eminem to resist some of the topics other rappers were using to further their careers. He controlled where his rap career went and took it to a place where it could be used to inspire others, instead of focusing on the negatives in life. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      @Nell Rose - I admit the biggest reason I started following Eminem's career was because of his writing. It amazed me that someone so talented in a literary sense would end up in the rap world. It ended up working out just fine. And yes, he decided to use real events in his own life as the subject matter of his songs, another trait that fans enjoy, because it's easier to relate to someone's story when they are living it or have already lived it. Thanks for the great comment.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      6 years ago from England

      For someone who absolutely hates rap music, I totally love Eminem! I know that sounds like an oxymoron but I watched the film and since then have watched it at least 2 or 3 times. the reason being is that unlike other rappers who just drone on and on (yawn) he actually makes sense, is a great poet, and lets face it, that's what rap is all about, and he comes across as so real, in the sense that what he sings about plays on his face, he is living the song, and that's what I like, for me to actually love his music shows how great he is, great hub and really interesting, cheers nell

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      While Eminem might not be my cuppa, he surely is inspirational and continues to work to get his message across. I'm sure he has also touched many kids in Detroit with his music and messages!

      Voted this hub up and interesting.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      6 years ago from Orlando, FL

      I so agree. Anytime I need motivation I just lose myself in Lose Yourself.

    • Jason Marovich profile imageAUTHOR

      Jason F Marovich 

      6 years ago from Detroit

      I'd be lying if I said I was surprised you have, like, one of the most inspirational songs ever made as your ringtone!

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      6 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Lose Yourself is playing on my phone right now!!

    • Jason Marovich profile imageAUTHOR

      Jason F Marovich 

      6 years ago from Detroit

      I'm the same, Larry. If an Eminem song is playing, I'm looking to get my headphones on and turn it up. His straightforward delivery, his intensity, and his willingness to bare his soul in his music are three reasons people find him attractive, no doubt. Thanks for stopping by, Larry Okeke.

    • Jason Marovich profile imageAUTHOR

      Jason F Marovich 

      6 years ago from Detroit

      Thank you for reading and commenting, kelleyward. I believe Eminem has always been able to keep it real and authentic, not an easy job in his line of work.

    • Larry Okeke profile image

      Larry Okeke 

      6 years ago from Enugu, Nigeria

      Man! anything from slim shady makes me pause! irrespective of what am doing. His songs are lengthy, crafty and awesome and the way he delivers those words? boy oh boy! if i were a girl i'd marry no one but him!

    • profile image

      kelleyward 

      6 years ago

      I remember the first time I heard Eminem's Slim Shady on a crazy cable show called Pulse music, I loved that channel. His lines are so raw, authentic, and deeply emotional. Thanks for sharing this hub!

    • Jason Marovich profile imageAUTHOR

      Jason F Marovich 

      6 years ago from Detroit

      Thanks for sharing this, Sunshine. With all the myths and falsehoods about the city of Detroit, Eminem's acceptance by inner city residents was an important development in Metro Detroit relations.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      6 years ago from Orlando, FL

      In my book I agree 100%! Anything that Eminem touchs turns to gold. I wish him years of success. Any fan of Eminem's is a friend of mine!:)

    • Jason Marovich profile imageAUTHOR

      Jason F Marovich 

      6 years ago from Detroit

      Thanks, Sunshine625. His style of rap is being reborn again and again as he moves away from recording his own stuff to producing other's. A new generation of Eminem-influenced rappers are jamming the recording business, and, in my book, that's a good thing.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      6 years ago from Orlando, FL

      I'm honored to post the first comment to this outstanding tribute to Eminem. I commend Eminem for his climb to success. He might not always say what people want to hear, but what he says makes one stop and think. Voted UP!

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